Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"WHEN THERE WAS THUNDER"........... by Dick Spooner

Well, its official….Dick Spooner’s latest creation “When There Was Thunder” was officially released into print on July 26, 2011 at our “Backroom 400” dinner with 9 apostles in attendance at Boston Pizza on Memorial Ave.  The predominant building in this picture which is still there today is of course the CLE Coliseum as well as many of the homes along Northern Ave.

The "Backroom 400" was initially called the “Backyard 400” held at Ron Limbrick’s home every July 1st weekend starting a number of years ago with some famous guests in attendance in those days such as Bud Heidrick, Glen Kettering, Louis Tocheri, Red Marsonet, Merv Dove, etc. etc., some of whom are not with us today.
Merv Dove graciously took over the event for the last few years as a dinner get together.  The whole thing has gone on for about 12 years or so.

Dick Spooner of local art fame….you can see his complete website and profile by clicking here http://my.tbaytel.net/sunrise_shores/ was commissioned or we should say encouraged to do a piece on the CLE track from the late 1950’s.  It all started in 2009 with a sketch on a McDonald’s restaurant napkin shown here.  The original sketch showed the 4th corner but the final piece shows turn 1 and 2.  This was featured on this blog page some time back.  Click here then come back http://hotrodsandjalopies.blogspot.com/2009/06/dick-spooners-napkin-art.html

After much serious thought and input from a few others, Dick finished his wonderful piece and did release it on the above noted date.  Merv Dove driving  the famed #31 stock car back then, and who has hosted the dinners for the past number of years was elected by Dick to be in first place.  You will note that many of the other race car numbers are somewhat generic, as not to offend anyone I suppose.

In attendance left to right starting at the back was Dennis Winko, Dick Spooner, Bob Walker, Dave Cano, Ron Limbrick, Jim Hamer, Merv Dove, Volker Lehmann, and Alan Yahn.  Missing from the picture and this specific dinner was Gary Jansekovich, and Tom Kusznier.
Merv himself was honoured to have print #1, Allan Yahn has print #2, and I have print #3.  If you are interested in owning one of these wonderful prints, you can contact Dick directly at his website.  They are 11" X 17" overall and a limited quantity of only 110 will be produced.

I was honoured by Dick to be told that it was me in the white jacket and cap selling cokes at the races.  That was the only way I could get in for free and still afford to go roller skating at the Fort William Gardens on Friday night…LOL.
Be sure to click on all photos to enlarge them.......and a HUGE thanks to Dick Spooner for the wonderful art piece that we have patiently been waiting for for quite awhile!!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Huge Then and Now at the Fairgrounds.........1955 to 2010

Here is some more interesting data about our CLE...The Canadian Lakehead Exhibition grounds.  The following two photos are before and after photos.  The first one was taken in 1955 and the second one was extracted from Google Earth and a relatively current photo of about 2010.

The changes are very dramatic, and the only two buildings shown in the photos that existed then and today are the CLE Coliseum shown in light blue in both photos, and the CLE Auditorium that is used mainly for Bingo games today.  The following is what the circled items used to be.
  • The lime green shows the main part of the midway and was accessible by crossing the river by a walking bridge.
  • The red shows where the walking bridge was.
  • The dark blue in the centre of the picture is the Grandstand and entertainment stage.....this was also used as the judges stand for the stock car races.
  • The pink rectangle in the lower centre was the "Welcome to Port Arthur" arch talked about in this blog before.
  • The purple rectangle at the bottom was the "Super-Sonic car wash".  This building is still used today for a number of different businesses.
  • The Street along the bottom of both pictures is May Street, and on the left side of the old photo, Memorial Ave starts just left/north of the river.  The trees along both sides of Memorial Ave., planted in memory of fallen soldiers during WWI and WWII have since been removed for street widening etc.  I would like to see the city re-plant those trees along Memorial Ave and re-dedicate Memorial Ave to what it was meant to be, a "memorial" to fallen soldiers of both wars!! 

In this new photo there are a number of geographical changes.  The largest being the widening of the river and also the re-routing of the river somewhat.  This was done to alleviate flooding problems from both the McIntyre and Neebing rivers to homes and business east of Fort William Road.  Another was the "Dorothy Dove" building roof shown with a white roof at the bottom right of the old picture, and the changes noted to the roof in the new picture shown in blue just to the right of the Yellow Auditorium building.  The race track, grandstand, and all the barns that fan out between the Coliseum and the Grandstand were all torn down to accommodate our new Golf Dome and Silver City Theatre both shown in the centre of the new photo.
My personal thought is that the CLE and midway should be moved to a better place, such as the Thunder Bay Agriplex or maybe Current River Park, since the grounds have been pretty much taken over by the movie theatre and the dome.
Click on the photos to enlarge...........JUST MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT!!!  ...and an old picture showing how it was.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Canadian Lakehead Exhibition 1947.......plus other year's events.......

With this year's local Canadian Lakehead Exhibition on August 10th, I thought it fitting to add some nostalgia to Fair Week.  The local Times Journal ad here was from 1947 with the Grandstand show being called "Cameos of 1947".  This ad has appeared in this blog before.  Note that the midway was the famed "Royal American Shows".  Grandstand entertainment was also Jimmy Lynch's "Death Dodgers" and a 1947 Mercury was given away to some lucky person in attendance.
 This original Canadian Lakehead Exhibition iron sign still exists on the CLE grounds.  From my collection here is a 1963 ticket stub when the fair ran a full 8 days

An original Canadian Lakehead Exhibition "Jimmie Lynch's Death Dodgers" poster is shown here from the Fort William and Port Arthur days. 

Two Royal American Shows posters from the day are shown here....note that they both state "Worlds Largest Midway"....and I believe they were right.  When our fairgrounds extended across the river, there were tons of rides, other midway attractions, and many other thrill shows.  I remember vividly that one of  Hitler's bullet proof cars were on display as well as oddities such as mutant animals and disfigured human beings.

 Here is what the giveaway car looked like in 1947.  One lucky person or family won this great family car.

Like most guys, their favourite midway ride was the bumper cars.  Dodgem was one of the popular brand names for some of the early cars.  Before you could ever get behind the wheel of your dad's car, you could drive one of these and run into anyone you pleased.  One would show off by running into the cute girl drivers the most.  These old bumper cars have become quite collectible in their own right today, as well as the old canvas banners as shown here.

A smile from ear to ear...........

NUNS on Dodgems....how quaint....Nuns have to have some fun too!!  Notice that they are all wearing cool shades so no-one can recognize them....... :-)

Here are some very old bumper cars reminicent of early midget racers.....

A good one on the left... :-)  This is what was allowed in California until January of 2010.   Old retrofitted bumper cars with chain drive Kawasaki engines and leather interiors were allowed on the street until it was noted that it was a mistake by field staff at the DMV and all registrations were revoked.....Only in America!   These cars no longer have California plates but were very cool all the same!
 Here is one incredible thrill show from the 1930's.  I remember seeing motorcycle and go-kart ones like these at the CLE in the 1950's

From my own collection, this is a typical late 1950's CLE Grandstand sign.  The Annex would be the area to the north of the Grandstand that wasn't covered.

This is also a typical view from the Grandstand during a Championship or race night event!
Here is an old 8mm preview Championship race that took place in the late 1950s showing the local hero's of the day.  Click on the little arrow on the left to start and click on the 4 arrow icon on the bottom right to enlarge to full screen. 
FINALLY...Here is a link to another post on this blog regarding the old CLE of past years...CLICK HERE http://hotrodsandjalopies.blogspot.com/2010/06/canadian-lakehead-exhibitioncoming.html
A huge thanks to all who donated photos and film clips to this post and many of the others!!
Be sure to click on all photos to enlarge them a bit.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Al Pomanti's Mystery Hot Rod plus....His dad's 1949 GMC Panel Truck......

Well, here is the mystery Hot Rod taken by Al Pomanti's brother-in-law way back in 1961.  The photo was taken at Kakabeka Falls, about 18 miles west of Fort William and Port Arthur(Thunder Bay, Ontario). 
Here's a little closer look, but a little fuzzy.  The '32 Ford 5-window coupe is chopped and channeled with bobbed rear fenders and cycle fenders on the front.  It sports a '32 Ford chopped grille, oval Nerf bars and cutout exhaust tips in case you need to race...!  ...WOW...Period perfect.  Does anyone know who this car belongs to whether it be a local owner or was just passing through the Lakehead??
Here is Al's Dad's brand new 1949 GMC panel truck visor and all.....Al says it came new with a radio and a passenger seat which was uncommon for delivery vehicles at the time.  The photos below show the address of "City Plumbing and Heating"  when this photo was taken and a later location from a 1959/60 Fort William and Port Arthur phone book.

The photo at the left is the business location in 1949 when the vehicle was purchased at 188 S. Algoma in Port Arthur. The photo on the right is the location at 238 N. Cumberland Street that was noted in the 1959/60 local phone book
Thanks to Al Pomanti for the hot rod photos and the story about his dad's business and the cool panel truck. 
Be sure to click on the photos to enlarge them somewhat!